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U.S. Department of the Interior - Office of Congressional and Legislative Affairs
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National Parks Bills: S 1991




STATEMENT OF KATHERINE H. STEVENSON,

ACTING ASSISTANT DIRECTOR, BUSINESS SERVICES, NATIONAL PARK SERVICE,

DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR,

BEFORE THE SUBCOMMITTEE ON NATIONAL PARKS

OF THE SENATE COMMITTEE ON ENERGY AND NATURAL RESOURCES,

CONCERNING S. 1991,

TO AUTHORIZE THE SECRETARY OF INTERIOR

TO CONDUCT A STUDY TO DETERMINE THE SUITABILITY AND FEASIBILITY

OF EXTENDING THE LEWIS AND CLARK NATIONAL HISTORIC TRAIL

TO INCLUDE ADDITIONAL SITES ASSOCIATED

WITH THE PREPARATION AND RETURN PHASES OF THE EXPEDITION

November 8, 2007

 

Mr. Chairman and members of the subcommittee, thank you for the opportunity to appear before you today to present the Department of the Interior's views on S. 1991, a bill to authorize the Secretary of the Interior to conduct a study to determine the suitability and feasibility of extending the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail to include additional sites associated with the preparation and return phases of the expedition.                  

While the Department has some concerns about the need for the study, we do not object to the enactment of S. 1991.  However, we believe that priority should be given to the 35 previously authorized studies for potential units of the National Park System, potential new National Heritage Areas, and potential additions to the National Trails System and National Wild and Scenic River System that have not yet been transmitted to the Congress. 

S. 1991  would authorize a study to determine whether the routes followed by Meriwether Lewis and William Clark, whether independently or together, in the preparation phase of the expedition starting at Monticello, located near Charlottesville, Virginia, and traveling to Wood River, Illinois, and in the return phase of the expedition from Saint Louis, Missouri, to Washington, D.C., would meet the suitability and feasibility criteria for extending the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail to include these routes and their associated sites.  These sites and routes are commonly referred to as the "Eastern Legacy."  These routes include designated Lewis and Clark sites in Virginia, the District of Columbia, Maryland, Delaware, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee, Indiana, Missouri, and Illinois.  The study also would analyze the potential impact that the inclusion of the Eastern Legacy would have on those sites, as well as on the tourist visitation to the western half of the trail.  The bill would require the Secretary of the Interior to complete the study and provide its conclusions and recommendations within two years from the date funds are first made available for that purpose.  We estimate the cost to complete the study would be approximately $250,000 to $300,000.

There have been many discussions in recent years between scholars and interested individuals concerning whether the Eastern Legacy sites and routes merit inclusion in the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail.  However, the issue of whether this area is suitable and feasible as an administrative unit of the National Trails System has not been addressed.  S. 1991 would provide that authority.  

Discussions in the past against extending the trail to include the Eastern Legacy are focused primarily on the common historical understanding of where the expedition itself began.  President Jefferson's instructions to Captain Meriwether Lewis clearly imply that the expedition began with the ascent of the Missouri River.  The actual transfer of title to and power over the Louisiana Territory from France to the United States was not effective until March 10, 1804.  Prior to that date, the Spanish Lt. Governor of Upper Louisiana refused the expedition's request to proceed up the Missouri; so it is clear that the journey of exploration could not begin until after that date.  The journals of the expedition by Captains Lewis and Clark are the official chronicles of the project.  On May 14, 1804, the day the expedition left Camp Wood and began its ascent of the Missouri River, Captain Clark wrote in his journal "The mouth of the River Dubois is to be considered as the point of departure."  In his journal, Captain Lewis stated that he had informed President Jefferson, by letter, of the departure; this, too, would seem to imply that the expedition began that day.

Some believe that important locations in the Eastern Legacy are already recognized by the trail as certified sites and that they do not need to be connected to the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail.  There is also some concern that extending the trail will somehow dilute the attention to and importance of the existing official trail.

Others point out that the expedition did not simply spring forth from Wood River, Illinois on May 14, 1804, but involved years of preparation at other locations.  These include the ruminations of westward expansion and manifest destiny by Thomas Jefferson at Monticello in Virginia, the acquisition of firearms at Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, Lewis' training in medicine and scientific observation in Philadelphia, and taking delivery of the keel boat in Pennsylvania and struggling through low water to bring the boat down the Ohio River.

Although the field expedition ended in September 1806 with the Corps of Discovery's return to Saint Louis, there were still important tasks to undertake such as reporting to the White House to brief the President on the findings of the expedition.  Some say that Lewis' death was attributable in large part to the expedition and that his grave on the Natchez Trace should be a part of the trail.  As intended by President Jefferson, the expedition and manifest destiny had far reaching impacts and ramifications beyond the West to American society as a whole, and he certainly considered that his dream of a nation from "sea to shining sea" had been fulfilled, despite the failure to find the mythical "Northwest Passage."

A suitability and feasibility study would take into account the reasons for adding the Eastern Legacy by various interested agencies, organizations, and individuals and evaluate the merits of including the additional routes and sites in the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail.

Mr. Chairman, this concludes my prepared testimony.  I would be pleased to answer any questions you or other members of the subcommittee may have.